Just in case you think that traditional fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Subway might be simplifying their food ingredients enough to begin chipping away at Chipotle’s industry-leading position on the “clean-label” issue, reconsider: The fast-casual brand is launching a new marketing campaign that reinforces the simplicity of the total of 68 ingredients in its food in contrast with the long and complex ingredient lists on which so many fast-food brands remain reliant.
In its “Friend or Faux?” campaign, which launches July 21, Chipotle will offer not just an integrated marketing campaign but also an online game, which offers a restaurant-ingredient quiz and offers prizes for winning players.
“This is a message that we think always needs to be reinforced,” Chris Arnold, head of Chipotle communications, told brandchannel. “Historically, most of our messaging on food has kind of focused on what we call ‘hero ingredients,’ that is, our responsibly raised meats, local and organic produce. The idea of this effort is to extend beyond that and talk about the collective beauty of all of the ingredients that we use and that they are all real, whole foods.”
By comparison, noted Mark Crumpacker, chief creative and development officer for Chipotle, in a press release, “There’s been a lot of talk recently about fast-food companies removing artificial ingredients from their food, but most of these announcements cover only a portion of the thousands of additives used in processed foods.”
To play the game, consumers must choose a Chipotle menu item and one of a number of fast-food items and then compare and match 20 ingredients, identifying which menu item contains each ingredient: the Chipotle item, the fast-food product or both. Users who complete the game will get a special buy-one-get-one mobile offer and be entered into a national free-food sweepstakes.
Just as in its first game a couple of years ago—an iOS offering based on its animated “documentary” video that attacked “industrialized” food, The Scarecrow, and which was downloaded more than 600,000 times—in “Friend or Faux?” Chipotle doesn’t call out villainous brands by name. Rather, Arnold explained, the fast foods used for comparison are “representative” burgers, pizzas, sandwiches and salads available at a variety of fast-food outlets.
But Arnold wasn’t afraid to call out some of the brands causing mischief by removing a few ingredients and then implying their menus are clean of suspect substances. “If you listen to the classic jingle for the Big Mac, for example, it lists the ingredients and implies that it covers everything,” Arnold said. “It all sounds well and good. But then you look at the ingredient declaration for a Big Mac, and how many dozens of ingredients are in those things, and you certainly can’t make their ‘special sauce’ at home the way McDonald’s does it.”
Chipotle has been working on the “Friend or Faux?” effort for several months, Arnold said. Since then, he noted, several chains have made announcements about paring back additives and other ingredients from their foods, including Panera, which is removing 150 ingredients, “and they already were pretty good,” Arnold said.
Thus, he said, such claims “could serve to muddy the waters in terms of the overall conversation” about simple ingredient lists. “So it looks like a good time for us to be talking about our list of only 68 real, whole foods.”